Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The Education of a Coroner by John Bateson

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The Education of a Coroner
by John Bateson

ISBN-13: 9781501168222
Hardcover: 368 pages
Publisher: Scribner
Released: Aug. 15, 2017

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description, Modified from Goodreads:
Marin County, California is a study in contradictions. Its natural beauty attracts thousands of visitors every year, yet the county also is home to San Quentin Prison, one of the oldest and largest penitentiaries in the country. Marin ranks in the top one percent of counties nationwide in terms of affluence and overall health, yet it is far above the norm in drug overdoses and alcoholism, and comprises a large percentage of suicides from the Golden Gate Bridge.

Ken Holmes worked in the Marin County Coroner’s Office for thirty-six years, starting as a death investigator and ending as the three-term, elected coroner. As he grew into the job—which is different from what is depicted on television—Holmes learned a variety of skills, from finding hidden clues at death scenes, interviewing witnesses effectively, managing bystanders and reporters, preparing testimony for court to notifying families of a death with sensitivity and compassion. He also learned about different kinds of firearms, all types of drugs—prescription and illegal—and about certain unexpected and potentially fatal phenomena such as autoeroticism.

Complete with poignant anecdotes, The Education of a Coroner provides a firsthand and fascinating glimpse into the daily life of a public servant whose work is dark and mysterious yet necessary for society to function.

My Review:
The Education of a Coroner is both a biography and a collection of crime stories. We're given details about how Ken Holmes got into a career as a death investigator (then coroner's assistant and later coroner), the training he received, and how he went about doing his job. We learn about the things Ken Holmes checked when he first came to a death scene, the importance of death certificates, and the difference between cause and manner of death. The author also explained how death notifications were done by the coroner's office, how they dealt with the media, how they interviewed people about the death, and many other aspects of Holmes' job.

We're also told about some of the cases he was involved in, from suicides and accidents to homicides. He talked about some big name cases, unusual or shocking cases, and about the many suicides off the Golden Gate Bridge. The accidents and murders were described with minimal gory detail and were more about the clues found while working the case. He gave more gory details about the suicides, though. I found the book very interesting and would recommend it to people interested in what a death investigator and coroner do and to fans of true crime stories.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

A Visitor's Guide to Georgian England by Monica Hall

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A Visitor's Guide to Georgian England
by Monica Hall

ISBN-13: 9781473876859
Paperback: 144 pages
Publisher: Pen & Sword
Released: Oct. 19, 2017

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description, Modified from NetGalley:
Find yourself immersed in the pivotal world of Georgian England, exciting times to live in as everything was booming; the Industrial Revolution, the Enlightenment, and the nascent Empire. You will find everything you need to know in order to survive undetected among the ordinary people. What to wear, how to behave yourself in public, earn a living, and find somewhere to live. Very importantly, you will be given advice on how to stay on the right side of the law, and how to avoid getting seriously ill.

Monica Hall creatively awakens this bygone era, filling the pages with all aspects of daily life within the period, calling upon diaries, illustrations, letters, poetry, prose, 18th century laws and archives.

My Review:
A Visitor's Guide to Georgian England describes what life was like in England from 1714 to 1830. It's a brief look at various aspects of life, so we might get details about the routine of getting dressed but more of a survey of the sports played at the time. Most of the information was about the middle and upper class, but it does mention the poorer class.

The author started by providing an overview of the time period and of the attitudes that people generally held. She then looked at clothing and makeup (what they wore, how you put it on, and the makeup they made and used); what location you might choose to live in and what type of job you might take; the diseases and such you might encounter and the treatments that could be offered; fitness and sports you might engage in (with descriptions of how they were different from modern versions). She also looked at the rise of etiquette; unusual (to us) laws, how to bring someone to trial, and possible punishments; what theatre, opera, circus, and pantomime performances were like; how the lottery worked and all the ways people gambled (cards, dice, horses, etc.); what topics children were taught, and some notables from the Enlightenment.

The writing style was lightly humorous and very readable. The book focused more on what was different, so don't expect a complete, detailed look at any subject. However, it was a fun overview of Georgian England with some interesting details thrown in. I'd recommend this book to those interested in how the Georgian's were different (and yet similar) to us.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

999 CSI by Larry Henderson, Kris Hollington

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999 CSI:
Blood, Threats and Fears
by Larry Henderson,
Kris Hollington

ISBN-13: 9781910670804
Paperback: 410 pages
Publisher: Thistle Publishing
Released: Dec. 1, 2015

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description, Modified from NetGalley:
Machine guns, safe-blowers, sadomasochists, pythons and flesh-eating viruses, all in a day’s work for Scenes of Crime Officer (SOCO) Larry Henderson who, in 999 CSI provides an unforgettable insight into a life dedicated to forensics.

Larry, whose career with London’s Metropolitan Police started in 1971, a time when police officers were more than a little sceptical of science, soon proved his worth and attended every kind of crime scene, from terrorism to rape and from blackmail to murder - before he became the head of the Flying Squad’s forensic team during the busiest and most dangerous period of the legendary outfit’s existence. Soon, Larry was caught up in shoot-outs, pavement ambushes, record-breaking drug deals and tiger kidnappings, confronting some of the UK’s most terrifying villains along the way.

Larry’s groundbreaking work features some of the UK’s most notorious crimes - a key piece of forensic evidence from one of Larry’s murder cases is displayed at Scotland Yard’s infamous Crime Museum. At turns breathtaking, fascinating, hilarious and tragic, 999 CSI opens up a truly astonishing world that most people never get to see, a world filled with cruelty, matched only by the courage of those who work tirelessly for justice.

My Review:
999 CSI is a memoir about Larry Henderson's years working as a Scenes of Crime Officer in London. He worked as a SOCO from 1972 to 1994 in various districts (Sutton, Wimbleton, New Malden, BatterSea, Royal A District) plus the Metropolitan Police Forensic Science Laboratory and the Flying Squad. He talked about some of the cases he was involved in as a crime scene examiner (grouped by district) as well as the people he worked with and some of how the work affected his home life. He covered a great variety of cases: robbery, burglary, fatalities of various sorts, bomb threats, blackmail, rape, bestiality, drug raids, arson, kidnapping, protests, riots, and more.

For each case, he briefly described what he did at the scene and his interactions with the victim if he thought it was interesting. Since he didn't want to teach criminals how to get away with a crime, he didn't give much detail about the techniques used to catch them. Combine that with most of the cases being robberies and burglaries, and you don't need to worry about gory descriptions (though you get the feeling that it's there). He did detail his grievances with some of his bosses, though. This is the second British policing book that I've read, and both seem to feel that politics within the police/detective/forensics system is preventing that system from working well.

It was interesting to see how the scene examiners worked during those years and what the author contributed to how future generations will do that job. It was also interesting to see how a variety of crimes were handled. However, since we only get the evidence collection aspect of the job for much of the book, it did get a little repetitive. I found the Flying Squad part more interesting because he had to think about the bigger picture as he coordinated multiple people. Plus he was often on the scene when the action happened. Overall, I'd recommend this interesting memoir.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Draw 50 Sea Creatures by Lee J. Ames, Erin Harvey

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Draw 50 Sea Creatures
by Lee J. Ames,
Erin Harvey

ISBN-13: 9780399580178
Paperback: 67 pages
Publisher: Ten Speed Press
Released: July 25, 2017

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description, Modified from NetGalley:
In this new installment of Lee J. Ames's beloved Draw 50 series, readers will find easy-to-follow, step-by-step visual lessons on sketching and rendering all kinds of sea and ocean-dwelling creatures. Animals and plants from in and near the water featured in the book include clownfish, whale sharks, sea otters, dolphins, turtles and more.

My Review:
Draw 50 Sea Creatures is a drawing book. Except for some brief encouragement at the beginning of the book, there was no text describing how to draw the various figures. He usually provided 6 steps for drawing each sea creature. You build the creature by drawing the lines demonstrated in each step in the book. The final step showed the fully shaded-in plant or animal, but you're left to experiment to figure out how to create a similar shading on your line figure. Some of the animals with more complex texture patterns had "guides" drawn during step 5 to help you place the shading in step 6.

As I said, most of the figures had you add lines to lines to create the figure in steps 1 through 5 and then added shading in step 6. These were the easiest ones to do, in my opinion. Some figures had you draw guide lines in the first few steps (which are erased from the final drawing) before you start on the actual animal. I'd suggest looking at the whole sequence before drawing these as sometimes I found it easier to skip one or more of the guide line steps. The blade coral had so many guide lines and was so complex that I found the suggested sequence too messy to successfully follow.

The drawings were grouped by type (fish, shell animals, etc.) rather than difficulty level, so the complex figures were mixed in with the easier ones. I'd suggest starting with some of the easier ones to get used to this learning style. You can draw some decent looking sea creatures using this book--better than I could without the suggested steps. However, I now realize that I prefer to learn drawing from books that include more steps and/or text to explain the steps.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Simply Electrifying by Craig R. Roach

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Simply Electrifying
by Craig R. Roach

ISBN-13: 9781944648268
Hardcover: 400 pages
Publisher: BenBella Books
Released: July 25, 2017

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description, Modified from Goodreads:
Electricity is at the core of all modern life. It has transformed our society more than any other technology. Yet, no book offers a comprehensive history about this technological marvel. Until now.

This book brings to life the 250-year history of electricity through the stories of the men and women who used it to transform our world: Benjamin Franklin, James Watt, Michael Faraday, Samuel F.B. Morse, Thomas Edison, Samuel Insull, Albert Einstein, Rachel Carson, Elon Musk, and more. In the process, it reveals for the first time the complete, thrilling, and often-dangerous story of electricity’s historic discovery, development, and worldwide application.

Written by electricity expert and four-decade veteran of the industry Craig R. Roach, Simply Electrifying marshals, in fascinating narrative detail, the full range of factors that shaped the electricity business over time—science, technology, law, politics, government regulation, economics, business strategy, and culture—before looking forward toward the exhilarating prospects for electricity generation and use that will shape our future.

My Review:
Simply Electrifying is a history of electricity for the average person. Anything technical regarding an invention, experiment, or scientific idea was explained in simple terms. It was mostly a collection of biographies of people who made a major impact on the history of electricity and how we use it. The author also talked about how politics, technology choices, and economics have impacted how we use electricity. I'd recommend this book to those who'd watch a documentary on the topic, as it had a similar feel.

He covered Benjamin Franklin (how the Leyden Jar worked, lightening experiments), James Watt (invented improved steam engine, which was used for electrical generation), Michael Faraday (link between magnetism and electricity, invented electric motor, electric generator), James Maxwell (electromagnetic waves), Samuel Morse (telegraph) and the transatlantic cable.

Thomas Edison (inventions needed for an electricity industry, like electric light bulbs, wall switches, power lines, generators), George Westinghouse and Nikola Tesla (AC/DC current wars, AC electric motor, Tesla coil), Samuel Insull (economy of scale to lower pricing and make electricity affordable).

FDR's New Deal for electricity (more hydro power and proposed government action and regulation), the building of Hoover Dam, the Tennessee Valley Authority and David Lilienthal (public versus private utilities), coal mining and use and John L. Lewis (labor strikes), Albert Einsten, nuclear weapons and nuclear power plants, the modern environmental movement, California's electricity crisis and competitive reform, President Obama's Clean Power Plan, climate change, George Mitchell's shale gas revolution (fracking and natural gas usage), and Elon Musk's vision for the future of electricity set against the lessons learned from history.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Jane Austen at Home by Lucy Worsley

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Jane Austen at Home
by Lucy Worsley

ISBN-13: 9781250131607
Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Released: July 11, 2017

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description from NetGalley:
Take a trip back to Jane Austen's world and the many places she lived as historian Lucy Worsley visits Austen's childhood home, her schools, her holiday accommodations, the houses--both grand and small--of the relations upon whom she was dependent, and the home she shared with her mother and sister towards the end of her life. In places like Steventon Parsonage, Godmersham Park, Chawton House and a small rented house in Winchester, Worsley discovers a Jane Austen very different from the one who famously lived a 'life without incident'.

Worsley examines the rooms, spaces and possessions which mattered to her, and the varying ways in which homes are used in her novels as both places of pleasure and as prisons. She shows readers a passionate Jane Austen who fought for her freedom, a woman who had at least five marriage prospects, but--in the end--a woman who refused to settle for anything less than Mr. Darcy.

Illustrated with two sections of color plates, Lucy Worsley's Jane Austen at Home is a richly entertaining and illuminating new book about one of the world’s favorite novelists and one of the subjects she returned to over and over in her unforgettable novels: home.

My Review:
Jane Austen at Home is a look at Jane Austen's life from the perspective of what her daily life was like. Starting with her family and her birth, we learn what the house was like, how she was educated, what her social life was like, and so on. The author used letters, guidebooks from the time, old records, etc., to reconstruct what her daily life was like throughout her life and in different homes. She included many quotes from Jane's letters to her sister (and others), so we get to hear Jane's opinions in her own words.

The author mentioned Jane's marriage prospects and her path to publication, but she brought out the reasons why she might choose to marry or reject an offer and looked at how Jane found time to write, how she lived with a brother (who was her advocate with the publisher) when double-checking the galleys, and so on.

I really enjoyed how she pointed out real people and occurrences that happened in Jane's life that have echoes in novel. Since I enjoy learning about Georgian and Regency daily life and enjoy Jane Austen's stories, I found this book enjoyable on many levels. I'd highly recommend this interesting book.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.

Monday, July 3, 2017

The Pinks by Chris Enss

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The Pinks
by Chris Enss

ISBN-13: 9781493008339
Paperback: 208 pages
Publisher: Two Dot Books
Released: July 1, 2017

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description, Modified from NetGalley:
Most students of the Old West and American law enforcement history know the story of the notorious and ruthless Pinkerton Detective Agency and the legends behind their role in establishing the Secret Service and tangling with Old West Outlaws.

But the story of Kate Warne, an operative of the Pinkerton Agency and the first woman detective in America, and the stories of other women who served their country are not as well known. From Kate Warne’s part in saving the life of Abraham Lincoln in 1861 to the lives and careers of the other women who spied during the Civil War, these true stories add another dimension to our understanding of American history. Their stories are richly illustrated throughout with numerous historical photographs.

My Review:
The Pinks is a collection of true crime and spy stories and some biographies. The author talked about several of Kate Warne's cases and about various other women who worked as spies during the Civil War. We're told a little about Pinkerton, his detective agency, and how he hired Kate Warne in 1861. We get details about a couple cases that Kate helped solve (before and after the war). These cases were interesting, especially as the Pinkerton team was hired more to gain confessions than gather clues.

But most of the chapters talked about spying just before and during the Civil War. Kate Warne, Hettie Lawton, Vinne Ream, Elizabeth Baker, Mary Touvestre, Elizabeth Van Lew, and Dr. Mary Edwards Walker were all involved in spying for the Union during the war. I don't think that they all worked for the Pinkerton Detective Agency, though.

Some of the chapters described details about what the woman did and discovered, but some missions were covered only in general terms. The chapter on Dr. Walker focused more on her ambitions and what happened after the war than on what she did as a spy. One chapter was more about submarines and the battles involving the Merrimack and the Monitor than about the women who passed on information about the submarines.

I'd expected more details about Kate Warne's life or a focus on the detective cases involving the first female Pinkerton operatives. Though the book focused more on spying and gave only a brief look at these women, it was interesting to learn some of the things these women did.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: Read an excerpt using Google Preview.